This is one of the very few poems I’ve “written for a purpose”, so I hope it suggests there is some merit in this practice. Usually I have to wait until some urge is tugging at my attention, until a poem is aching to be written. Sometimes life affords few such moments, so it is good now and then to be given a reason to write something about something to get the machine working.
I have slowly started venturing back into the Manchester poetry scene. There used to be a great night at the Frog and Bucket that I used to attend with my friend Louise, and I would read frequently, along with a cast of some great people. But life kind of changed and other things took over – so that drifted away along with a lot of other things! It was almost as if I went through several years of exile. Anyway, now I have started writing again, I decided it was time to get out there a bit more, so I started going to a new writers’ group (which I still go to, despite getting some pretty negative comments on two very good poems), and also looked at any current poetry nights. I know there are slams and such, but one that struck me as a good place to start was the Freed Up night at the Green Room – central, and with friendly organisers who replied helpfully to my email enquiries (thanks Steve and Dominic!). So, I went along, and met another poet I had met over the internet through her excellent poetry – watch out for Room without Doors!
Anyway, it was a great night, meeting some great people, and I read 2 poems, which seemed to go down quite well, and overall there was a nice mixture of the serious and the comic, with some great characters and great performances. I would recommend the Freed Up nights at the Green Room for anyone in the Manchester area, as it is a supportive atmosphere, open mike, not competitive, and just gives everyone the space to read their stuff. More info can be found at The Green Room
Oh, getting back to where I started, the nights have a theme each month to encourage new writing. I did take an old poem, but thought I’d better write something new as well! The theme for the night was ghosts, so I wrote this poem, based on my experiences over the summer visiting ancient Welsh burial sites such as Tinkinswood in South Wales, and the Cromlech on the Great Orme in Llandudno.
Ghosts of the Tomb Builders
Cross-legged by the Cromlech, I watch summer ghosts
As they bury their dead, here by the stones
They left as mark or memorial, these tomb builders.
Did their tears water the grass of this untended place,
Did screams tear the air and slow down hearts
By this nameless tomb where ritual
Has given way to history? Did the bones
Quietly resurrect themselves, in the wind stir,
Or did unkind visitors remove their traces?
Eyes closed, I let the dead answer, show me their grim
Procession, surely something of grief in the hands
That crack bone and place the pieces of their
Dead so carefully here. These ghosts are five thousand
Years away, animal furs for clothes, skins
Still flecked with the blood of their murdered;
Yet not so different that I cannot feel eventual
Tears muddy their faces, brute survival giving way
For minutes, to the pausings and stirrings of grief.
A spider weaves now where the bones once were,
New dead have found in this their resting place;
Yet those human ghosts still lay their claim,
Grim purpose in the shape and aspect of the stones
Still standing; those ghosts still whisper, remind
The living that so much, and so little time has passed.